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The Participant

Just where the responsibility lies for the human condition is what Callie explores and attempts to answer. Can the observer divorce himself from the cause of his distress?

Just where the responsibility lies for the human condition is what Callie explores and attempts to answer. Can the observer divorce himself from the cause of his distress?

Spending a great deal of time critiquing God on how well he performs his duties, Callie questions the tragedies that seem pointless. He further maintainsthat it appears the Lord created man and then nodded off for a few thousand years.

While waiting to “move on,” Callie clutches at memories from his past as he seeks answers. Everything he does on stage is natural and free, filled with expressive abandon. Callie’s funniest moments are the “takes” he gives himself at what leaps out of his mouth.

His family recollections include his parents’ obsessive concern over his not talking before age 3 — he was just shy — and what he recalls as his first erection, attained on the playground with a girl straddling and beating the daylights out of him. All in all, Callie is pretty pragmatic: “I can’t cry over spilt milk; I’ve done that.”

Callie’s over-the-top performance elicits a tidal wave of laughter as well as many absolutely silent moments of pathos from the audience. His is the story of survival, and everyone’s been there to some extent.

He spends much of the show at fever-pitch, and guidance from director Jana Robbins might have spared her actor and provided more depth through variety. But her direction succeeds astutely as Callie makes it evident how his experiences led him to this turn.

Why there is a program credit for set design (by the Mystery Men Inc.) is a mystery in itself — the stage is bare except for a pair of modular blocks. Lou Powers’ lighting effectively shifts space and mood.

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The Participant

(Theatre Geo; 99 seats; $ 15 top)

Production: Better World Prods., in association with Chazz Palminteri, presents a play in one act by Dayton Callie. Directed by Jana Robbins. Set, Mystery Men Inc.; lights, Lou Powers. Opened April 17, 1995; reviewed May 8; runs through June 27. Running time: 80 min. #With: Dayton Callie. Live saxophone music wafts through the dark and wham! You are hit smack in the face with a blinding light that appears to be "the big man upstairs." You conclude that you've died and are in the "waiting room"or purgatory. This is the situation facing Dayton Callie in his one-man show. Amid questions like "What the hell happened?" and "How did my life end up here?" Callie examines the pain of the individual in a society rife with violence and fear. His thoughts cover sex, racism, parenthood, divorce, food and lesbians -- not necessarily in that order.

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